Cops are keeping a close eye on sex offenders; you should, too By John Stephen john. Because Palmer committed his crimes before June 4, , under Georgia law, he is allowed to settle down anywhere with no restrictions.
He can settle in a home next door to a school or day care or playground — anywhere. Palmer currently lives at the Big 7 motel on West Hill Avenue in Valdosta, according to the local sex offender registry, but his freedom to live elsewhere highlights a glaring inequity in the way Georgia treats its offenders. Only certain offenses warrant restrictions, and even then, only when those offenses fall into certain time periods.
If an offender committed a sex crime before June 4, , he is under no restrictions at all unless a court specifically prescribes one. The next time period — July 1, , to June 30, — adds churches and public swimming pools to the off-limits list. The final period — July 1, , and after — also bans offenders from public libraries.
In Florida, an offense date before Oct. Offenders who committed certain crimes — including sexual battery, child abuse and involvement with child pornography — against a child under age 16 on or after Oct. But once again, many local laws in Florida fill in the gaps that state ordinances leave wide open.
Even though offenders have varying levels of freedom, they are all kept under close watch by vigilant law-enforcement officers. From there, the offender has to come in periodically — once a year in Georgia and twice a year in Florida — to update his or her file with a fresh photo and any new information. Sexual predators, who are offenders with a high risk of re-offending, have to visit twice a year in Georgia and four times a year in Florida.
They also have to wear an ankle monitor until the day they die. Verification is crucial to maintaining public safety, said Lt. A number of years ago, lawyers told offenders if they claimed to be homeless, they would not have to register, he said.
We have to have specific directions," he said. If they do not want to return to prison, they do whatever he asks them. In neighboring Hamilton County, Sheriff Harrell Reid said holding offenders accountable can be a challenge, especially for those trying to fly under the radar or give false information.
When an offender moves from the area, another letter and updated list is mailed advising to remove that person from the booklet. Tift residents can even enter their home address and an email address on the TCSO website and be notified when a sex offender moves into their neighborhood.
Robert Brannen, who supervises the offenders in Tift County. Due to mental illness, many offenders have to be reminded of the rules, he said. Georgia sex offender registration and monitoring is state-mandated and unfunded. The sheriff's office registers about five sex offenders weekly. A Criminal Investigation Division employee spends a minimum of two hours a day on clerical work associated with sex offender activity.
As in other counties, Thomas County offenders' photos are published in the Thomasville Times-Enterprise with their addresses so the public will know where they are. In Lowndes County, Connell verifies offenders every three weeks. He may simply drive by a home to make sure the offender is still there. Tiny details and big differences Often, catching a sex offender — and proving it in court — can come down to the smallest personal attribute — a hidden tattoo, a brand of beer, a bumper sticker.
Family relatives are listed, along with their phone numbers. Preferred brands of cigarettes and alcohol are written down. Connell described a scenario where an offender might be peeking in a window a 6-year-old, flipping a cigarette butt on the ground and leaving it behind, saying authorities would get the DNA and catch the offender.
Tattoos are photographed, no matter where they are. Kids pick up on stuff like that. Grown-ups pick up on stuff like that. She oversees 15 counties from as far south as Houston to as far north as Morgan. She said being able to search offenders by distinctive characteristics — such as vehicles, scars, marks, tattoos, addresses and phone numbers — is a great way to keep people informed about which offenders are in the area and where.
The disguise game Most offenders have to visit local law enforcement once or twice a year to update their picture and their file — do they have a new car, a new tattoo, etc.
But many will try to change their appearance around picture time so that what they look like in the registry is strikingly different from what they look like on the street, Connell said.
Beyond the offenders who disguise themselves and the ones who occasionally step out of bounds, there are the ones who try to buck the system altogether. They are the runaways, the absconders — the ones who vanish and go rogue. They cannot stay out of sight. Not kidding at all. He was registered for two days, then I never saw him again.
Although sex offender registries are marked by many depraved and malicious characters, not all offenders are created equal, and some are far less dangerous than others, authorities said. This one molested both his daughters, he said. This one works on the family farm and is never a problem. That one has a mental disorder and is totally out of it. This one used to be a high school coach. That one is bag boy at the grocery store. He knows the intimate details of their lives.
He has a closeness to them that is usually found only in friendships, but he is not their friend. They are still sex criminals and being immersed in their lives day in and day out takes its toll on him, Connell said. But because he knows all about them, he knows not all of them are monsters.
One offender who has since moved away was convicted for having consensual sex with his underage girlfriend, Connell said. Although not an overwhelming group, many offenders end up on the registry with the child molesters and rapists for sleeping with their girlfriend, Connell said. One of those men is a year-old who lives in Hahira.
He has been no problem ever whatsoever. You know, they were a few years older than their girlfriend. They are hardworking family men. Check your sex offender registry. These guys have jobs all over Lowndes County. To contact the team, email sunlightproject gaflnews. There are sex offenders listed on the Whitfield County Sheriff's Office website www.
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